KOCHI: With just a couple of weeks to go before the 45-day mandatory trawling ban on fishing, the dramatic fall in the availability of diesel has put the fishermen in the state in a spot of bother. The fishermen allege a reduction of 40 per cent in the fuel availability in the consumer pumps run by fishermen’s organisations.
“The reduction has been introduced only in the consumer pumps run by fishermen’s organisations and not in the dealer pumps operated by private parties. It is just two weeks away from the trawling ban and hence all trawl fishermen are engaged in work now. Reducing supply at such a time only encourages black marketing and causing heavy losses to the fishing community,” said general secretary of Kerala Boat Owners Association, Joseph Xavier.
The oil companies, meanwhile, say that the reduction was introduced due to the ongoing shortage of diesel across the country.
“Several refineries had to be shut down recently and this has led to some shortage in the supply. It was owing to this that we had to reduce the supply to the consumer pumps. But the shortage will be plugged immediately,”, said the state co-ordinator of BPCL, P M Somachudan.
Fishermen also allege lobbying between the private pump owners and the oil companies.
“Earlier, when the fishermen were dependent on dealer pumps there has been heavy pilferage. Since we need as much as 3,000 litres of diesel, even a reduction by about 100 litres would go unnoticed. It is to prevent such malpractice that we introduced consumer pumps run by fishermen’s organisations. By reducing the supply to these pumps just before the trawling is an obvious move to help the dealers. In 2008, when there was a similar move, the then chairman of the Marine Products Export Development Authority had intervened giving orders that reducing diesel supply during pre and post-trawling ban must be avoided under all circumstances,” said Joseph Xavier.
Districts like Kollam have been hit hard by the ban. “The supply has been reduced in the pumps here since the last 5-6 days. The pumps which used to provide 2-3 load of diesel have now reduced it to one load. We need about 3000 litres of diesel for each voyage. As such, several trawlers have had to suspend their voyages,” said M S James, crew member of the trawler, Sreerag.